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It probably won’t surprise you to learn that, among the cities around the world with the largest volume of search interest in reggae, Kingston, Jamaica, ranks in the top 20, at number 16. But would you have guessed that five slots above Kingston, at number 11, would be Sulaymaniyah in Iraqi Kurdistan?
Such are the findings of the Google News Lab, which pulled search data for the term “reggae” for the years spanning 2004 to 2015 and produced the map below, illustrating search growth in the genre over the past decade. Among the other results: The city with the largest per-capita search interest in reggae is Ostróda, Poland. The fourth-largest search is in Hua Hin, Thailand. And the sixth largest is in Cambridge, England.
“It’s got a constant stream of interest,” says Simon Rogers, a data editor with the News Lab. “It waxes and wanes a little. There are phases when it goes up and down. But it’s clearly growing around the world and spreading geographically. You see it pop up in places like Vietnam. You’ve got search from London. And then in South America, there’s really an explosion.”
The Google News Lab also pulled aggregated data from Google Play Music and produced this Reggae Music Timeline. The timeline, which organizes data by the release dates of specific albums, gives a snapshot of current interest in all available reggae records. The spike you see in the late ’70s indicates that interest in albums produced during that period remains the highest.
“Of all reggae listening, albums from the ’70s still outweigh those from every other decade,” says Alison Cichowlas, the lead engineer on Google’s music timeline tool. “Drilling down deeper into that ’70s spike, that popularity is most driven by Bob Marley. His 1977 album Exodus definitely retains its interest and staying power. His collaborator Peter Tosh is on the map in that same decade as well. To me that says that the music still resonates with listeners today. Whether that’s because of the beat or the politics, the numbers don’t tell us.”